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Local law agencies partner with new app and neighbors to solve crimes

MADISON (WKOW) —  Several law agencies in southern Wisconsin are using new technology to help them solve and prevent crimes in their communities.

The Neighbors app by Ring already has millions of users and has been instrumental in catching package thieves, stopping burglaries, and car thieves.

One of those users is Stephanie Herfel who lives on Madison’s east side.

“It gives me an enormous amount of safety,” said Herfel.

Herfel bought a Ring doorbell and began using the app after a scary situation about two years ago.

“I was home alone, and it was about 8 o’clock on a summer evening, and someone came to the door,” said Herfel, who says the person asked her if she had any gas. “And I said ‘no I’m sorry’ and he leaned into my house and was looking around.”

Herfel, who was already dressed in her pajamas, says the suspicious person then asked if she had anything her garage.

“And I said, ‘no I don’t have anything in the garage either’,” said Hefel, who started to become weary of the person’s intentions. “That’s when I called my husky [Sierra]…she’s scary enough looking that was enough for that person to leave.”

Hefel admits she was terrified by the situation and called up her husband immediately.

“So, that’s when we looked into different security devices,” said Herfel, who decided to buy the doorbell with a camera attached. “We can view our neighbors about two houses down one way, and three houses down the other way.”

The company who owns the Ring Doorbell also runs the Neighbors app, which allows anyone to share photos or videos of suspicious activity in their neighborhood. The doorbell is not a requirement to download and use the app.

Earlier this Spring, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) teamed up with the Neighbors app.

“I just think it’s a win-win situation for both the community and us,” said DSCO Spokesperson Elise Schaffer. “Just getting pictures, being able to get a description of somebody, and being able to get a visual of what we’re looking for is extremely helpful.”

Schaffer says deputies can often spend hours trying to find video from area homes and businesses.

“If we can post on the app that we’re looking for this and then people can respond by sharing what they have or sharing what they know, it’s a great time saver for us,” said Schaffer.

Other departments like Town of Beloit are also using the app and Madison Police tell 27 News that they’re “considering” it, but haven’t made a decision yet.

“I think the police department has a difficult job already and if there’s anything we can do as citizens to help them, I’m all in,” Herfel said.

To learn more about the Neighbor’s app, visit their website.

Nick Buffo

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